As many continue to reckon with Michael Jackson’s place within popular culture following the airing of HBO’s Leaving Neverland and the allegations regarding his relationships with underage boys, many have come to reevaluate just how visible his continued cultural presence and legacy should be. It started with DJs and radio stations pulling Jackson’s music from rotation, and, most recently, has led to a Simpsons episode featuring Jackson to be pulled from reruns — though perhaps for reasons far more disturbing than just limiting the posthumous singer’s public exposure.
The show’s producers, James L. Brooks, Al Jean, and creator Matt Groening, announced last week that the Jackson-starring season 3 premiere, “Stark Raving Dad,” would be pulled from broadcast rotation in light of Leaving Neverland’s airing. “This was a treasured episode. There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn’t allow them to remain,” Brooks admitted. “The guys I work with — where we spend our lives arguing over jokes — were of one mind on this.”
In response to last week’s announcement, Al Jean provided an interview to the Daily Beast where he shared a belief that Jackson’s cameo had far more sinister motives behind it than the desire to appear on the most popular television show of the time.
“I think it was part of what he used to groom boys,” Jean stated. “It looks like the episode was used by Michael Jackson for something other than what we’d intended it,” Jean said. “It wasn’t just a comedy to him, it was something that was used as a tool. And I strongly believe that. That, to me, is my belief, and it’s why I think removing it is appropriate.”
Jackson’s uncredited guest turn in “Stark Raving Dad” as Leon Kompowsky, a man who believes himself to be Michael Jackson that Homer befriends in a mental institution before bringing him home to his family, was not officially confirmed until this past summer.
Brooks nor Groening have yet to comment on Jean’s statements.